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Invasive Species and Human Health. CABI Invasives Series 10

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Invasive alien plants and animals are known for their disruption of ecosystems and threat to biodiversity. This book highlights their major impact on human health. This includes not only direct effects through contact with the species via bites, wounds and disease, but also indirect effects caused by changes induced in ecosystems by invasive species, such as more water hyacinth increasing mosquito levels and thereby the potential for malaria. Covering a wide range of case studies from different taxa (animals and plants), and giving an overview of the diverse impacts of invasive species on health in developed and developing countries, the book is a significant contribution that will help in prioritizing approaches to controlling invasive species and mitigating their health effects. It covers invasive plants, marine species, spiders and other arachnids, ticks and dust mites, insects, mosquitos and other diptera, freshwater species (invertebrates and fishes), amphibians and reptiles, birds and mammals. The broad spectrum of the analyzed case studies will ensure the appeal of the book to a wide public, including researchers of biological invasions, doctors, policy-makers and managers, and students of invasive species in ecology, animal and plant biology and public health medicine.

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11 Chapters

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1 Poisonous and Venomous: Marine Alien Species in the Mediterranean Sea and Human Health



Poisonous and Venomous: Marine

Alien Species in the Mediterranean

Sea and Human Health

Bella Galil*

The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Tel Aviv University,



The Suez Canal is the main pathway of introduction of alien species into the Mediterranean

Sea. Its successive enlargements left the entire sea prone to colonization by highly impacting invasive alien species, including poisonous and venomous ones. The temporal and spatial extent of occurrence in the Mediterranean Sea of nine species (fish, sea-urchin, jellyfish and stinging hydroid), the evidence of their impacts on human health in their native range, the frequency and severity of human health impacts in their introduced range are described, as well as management measures. This chapter aims to acquaint and forewarn the public, stakeholders and decision makers, and to urge the latter to take the necessary steps to control the pathways and vectors of introduction and prepare themselves for these new health hazards.


2 Invasive Alien Plant Impacts on Human Health and Well-being



Invasive Alien Plant Impacts on

Human Health and Well-being

Lorenzo Lazzaro1*, Franz Essl2, Antonella Lugliè3,

Bachisio Mario Padedda3, Petr Pyšek4,5 and

Giuseppe Brundu3


of Florence, Italy; 2University of Vienna, Austria; of Sassari, Italy; 4The Czech Academy of Sciences,

Institute of Botany, Průhonice, Czech Republic; and 5Charles

University, Prague, Czech Republic



In this chapter we review, based on information available in scientific literature and reports, the most common negative direct impacts of invasive alien plants and Cyanobacteria on human health and well-being. Poisonous or toxic plants, i.e. plants containing toxic compounds, may impact human health generally after the ingestion of part of the plant (see

Nicotiana glauca) or of some product derived from toxic plants (see Senecio inaequidens

­poisoned products). Allergenic plants are among the most studied cases of impacts of alien plants, particularly concerning the role of allergenic pollen. Many invasive species are


3 Human Health Impact by Alien Spiders and Scorpions



Human Health Impact by Alien

Spiders and Scorpions

Wolfgang Nentwig*

University of Bern, Switzerland


Only a few alien spider species are of medical importance to humans because they are large and/or aggressive enough to inject venom and/or possess peculiar venom components.

­Spiders of serious medical concern include several Latrodectus (Theridiidae) and Loxosceles species (Sicariidae), numerously and globally introduced into many new areas. Loxosceles species are the only spiders that can cause severe local effects (necrosis) and both mentioned genera contain the only alien spider species that can provoke severe systemic effects. However, fatal issues are very rare. For all other spider species large enough to penetrate the human skin and introduced somewhere as alien species, 42 genera or species from 16 families are considered in detail. The venoms of these spiders cause only modest local (redness at the site of the bite, itching and swelling) and systemic (headache or nausea) effects and can be considered as harmless. In contrast to spiders, information on health issues of alien scorpions is rare and restricted to three species so far. One of them is potentially dangerous to humans, two species are not.


4 Ticks and Dust Mites: Invasive and Health-affecting Borderline Organisms



Ticks and Dust Mites: Invasive and Health-affecting Borderline


Sauro Simoni1* and Giulio Grandi2,3


Research Council for Agriculture and Economics –

Research Centre for Plant Protection and Certification, Florence,

Italy; 2Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala,

Sweden; and 3National Veterinary Institute, Uppsala, Sweden


According to the situations and cases presented here, organisms belonging to tick and house dust mite groups can be included within alien invasive pests representing a risk for human health. Rhipicephalus sanguineus, the brown dog tick, a vector for many tick-borne pathogens, is able to efficiently colonize households at quite wide ranges in temperature and relative humidity. Cases of the spread of this tick by movements of pets and people are reported.

House dust mites and main storage mites – although not strictly alien species – can act not only as allergens’ disseminators but even as potential indicators of environmental quality in different settings (newly colonized areas, both geographic and within human dwellings). The impact of alien mites affecting agricultural production has been generally measured by the ecological consequences on biodiversity, but the evaluation of the effects of these species on human health has been mostly neglected. Trading, travelling and modified home conditions can increase the chance for diffusion of ticks and mites affecting human health, i.e. causing higher exposures to vector-borne pathogens and allergens, respectively. A more interdisciplinary approach that takes into account both the dynamics in ecological evaluation and the consequences on human health of these organisms is needed.


5 Bugs, Ants, Wasps, Moths and Other Insect Species



Bugs, Ants, Wasps, Moths and

Other Insect Species

Alain Roques1*, Cristina Preda2, Sylvie Augustin1 and Marie-Anne Auger-Rozenberg1


Zoologie Forestière, Orléans, France and 2Ovidius University of Constan3a, Romania


A total of 43 insect species non-native to Europe are so far considered to affect human welfare through their biting, urticating and allergenic properties, or by causing domestic nuisances. They involve several orders. In Hymenoptera, species in two families, Formicidae

(ants) and Vespidae (wasps and hornets), are known to cause disturbance and health problems. Several moth species (Lepidoptera) have urticating larvae which may induce painful urticarial and allergic reactions. Bugs in five Hemipteran families have direct impacts on health, such as bed bugs and kissing bugs, which are vectors of pathogens, but most are considered to be household pests, causing nuisances to people when invading houses or aggregating on walls. Several non-native species of cockroaches that develop in synanthropic habitats have body parts, saliva or faeces containing powerful indoor allergens, and they can also facilitate mechanical transmission of pathogens to humans. Some species of Siphonaptera (fleas) and Phthiraptera (lice), which are obligate ectoparasitic insects of warm-blooded animals, are of high importance for human health because they cause itches and skin infection, and transmit major diseases such as bubonic plague and murine typhus.


6 The Invasive Mosquitoes of Medical Importance



The Invasive Mosquitoes of

Medical Importance

Roberto Romi1*, Daniela Boccolini1, Marco Di Luca1,

Jolyon M. Medlock2, Francis Schaffner3,4, Francesco

Severini1 and Luciano Toma1


Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy; 2Public Health England,

Salisbury, United Kingdom; 3University of Zurich, Switzerland; and

4Francis Schaffner Consultancy, Riehen, Switzerland


Mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) are the most important group of blood-sucking insects that are vectors of human diseases. This chapter focuses mainly on six species belonging to the

Aedes, Culex and Anopheles genera, which, closely adapted to human habitats for thousands of years, have exploited human activities to spread and establish in areas far from their origin, becoming invasive. The mechanisms leading to the introduction and establishment of invasive mosquito species and the risk that they represent for human health in newly colonized areas are extensively described. In particular, this chapter focuses on the three powerful and widespread arbovirus disease vectors, Ae. aegypti, Ae. albopictus and Ae. japonicus, with shorter references to Ae. koreicus and other alien species recently recorded in Europe.


7 Invasive Freshwater Invertebrates and Fishes: Impacts on Human Health



Invasive Freshwater Invertebrates and Fishes: Impacts on Human


Catherine Souty-Grosset1*, Pedro Anastácio2,

Julian Reynolds3 and Elena Tricarico4


de Poitiers, France; 2Universidade de Évora, Portugal;

College, University of Dublin, Ireland; and 4Department of

Biology, University of Florence, Italy



Inland waters are subject to more widespread biotic invasions than terrestrial ecosystems.

During the last century, 756 aquatic species were introduced in Europe, frequently carrying new parasites for native fauna and humans. The consequences of such invasions are the loss of the invaders’ original parasites, the introduction of new parasites, or new intermediate hosts or vectors for existing parasites. Many parasites are water-borne and need aquatic species to complete their transmission cycles. The list of 100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien

Species (Lowe et  al., 2000) does not take into account human health problems, so a risk assessment of the consequences of invasive freshwater alien species requires more attention. Here we review the direct and indirect impacts of invasive freshwater alien species on human health. Direct impacts include the injuries or allergies and new contaminants (bacteria, toxins), and their role as intermediate hosts to human parasites. Indirect impacts include the effects of the chemicals needed to control these aliens, changes to ecosystem services making the invaded area less suitable for recreational human use and damage to cultivation/ aquaculture affecting human well-being in developing countries. A clear management response is urgently needed to halt their spread and reduce or minimize the risk of human and wildlife disease.


8 Risks for Human Health Related to Invasive Alien Reptiles and Amphibians



Risks for Human Health Related to Invasive Alien Reptiles and


Olivier S.G. Pauwels1* and Nikola Pantchev2


Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique, Brussels,

Belgium and 2IDEXX Laboratories, Ludwigsburg, Germany


More than 100 amphibian and reptile species have established populations outside their natural geographical range, mostly as a consequence of the international pet trade. About 40 zoonoses are associated with reptiles and amphibians. The main zoonotic risks from alien invasive reptiles and amphibians are salmonellosis and probably also vibriosis from a bacteriological point of view, pentastomids, sparganosis and potentially trichinellosis from a parasitical point of view, and West Nile virus. There are also new and emerging pathogens, e.g. atypical Brucella spp., with zoonotic potential. Transmission of pathogens from introduced reptile and amphibian species to humans is limited by the important physiological differences between them and humans, the secretive or shy habits of most introduced species and the rarity of direct contact (with the notable exception of a few exotic species eaten by humans). Locally, alien reptiles include venomous species and large species able to inflict bites of medical concern. In certain areas some species (mainly anuran amphibians) are generating noise pollution affecting human well-being. Given the continued increase of invasive alien population establishments with time, the spread of alien arthropod vectors and aggravating factors such as climate change, it is expected that alien reptiles and amphibians and their associated pathogens will generate more public health concern in the future.


9 Do Alien Free-ranging Birds Ae ff ct Human Health? A Global Summary of Known Zoonoses



Do Alien Free-ranging Birds Affect

Human Health? A Global Summary of Known Zoonoses

Emiliano Mori1*, Saverio Meini2, Diederik Strubbe3,

Leonardo Ancillotto4, Paolo Sposimo5 and Mattia



di Siena, Italy; 2Centro Veterinario Cimarosa, Livorno,

Italy; 3Ghent University, Belgium; 4Università degli Studi di Napoli

‘Federico II’, Italy; 5NEMO s.r.l., Florence, Italy; and 6University of

Florence, Italy


Non-native birds are prominent among alien taxa, with at least 415 species established outside their natural distribution ranges. Impacts of introduced birds on human health have received little attention up to now, despite previous works suggesting that disease transmission is a major impact exerted by introduced bird species. Our synthesis reveals that at least

42 species of introduced birds may represent a hazard to human well-being. Among those, most are Psittaciformes, Columbiformes and Anseriformes, species that frequently occur in urban areas, partly because of their popularity as pets and ornamental species. The main zoonoses potentially brought by these birds include psittacosis, cryptococcosis, listeriosis and salmonellosis, transmitted by direct contact or via arthropod vectors (fleas, lice, ticks and mites). Many Galliformes introduced for hunting purposes can lead to salmonellosis and other gastroenteric diseases in humans. Non-native birds can threaten human health through bird-strikes around airports and through noise pollution by species sharing colonial roosts. While we found that alien birds can theoretically transmit several diseases to humans, empirical case studies of disease outbreaks linked to alien birds are rare or non-existent. The synergistic impacts of ongoing species introductions and global climate change may increase the risk of health hazards in the future. Therefore, sanitary monitoring of traded birds, mainly of the most synanthropic and game species released for human consumption would be prudent. Strict attention should be paid to alien bird populations already established within urban areas, to verify their role in affecting human health and well-being.


10 Impact of Alien Mammals on Human Health



Impact of Alien Mammals on

Human Health

Dario Capizzi1*, Andrea Monaco1, Piero Genovesi2,

Riccardo Scalera3 and Lucilla Carnevali2


Region, Environment and Natural Systems, Rome, Italy;

Institute for Environmental Protection and Research,

Rome, Italy and 3IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group,

Rome, Italy



We provide an overview of the impact of wild invasive alien mammals on human health, focusing specifically on species acting as zoonotic hosts or pathogens, along with the diseases and mechanisms of disease transmission associated with mammals in terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments. We checked for published data on the impact on human health for 129 alien invasive mammals, reported in 123 different countries. The highest number of invasive alien mammals causing impacts on human health is reported in

Japan (31 species), followed by Australia (24) and Argentina, New Zealand and Cuba (19).


11 Climate Change and Increase of Impacts on Human Health by Alien Species



Climate Change and Increase of Impacts on Human Health by

Alien Species

Stefan Schindler1*, Wolfgang Rabitsch1 and

Franz Essl1,2


Agency Austria, Vienna, Austria and 2University of

Vienna, Austria


There is mounting evidence that climate change will facilitate biological invasions. Regarding alien species relevant for human health, climate change can modify their impacts by altering the likelihood of their introduction, establishment, distribution and abundance, the scale of impacts and management. In this chapter, we summarize climate change impacts on health-relevant alien species with a focus on Europe. Climate change can support introductions of alien species impacting human health, but its role is moderate compared with the other aspects of globalization, such as increased trade and people’s increased mobility. There is strong evidence that changing climate characteristics, notably temperature, are crucial for the establishment and spread of human health-relevant alien species. Resulting increases and shifts in distribution might cause increasing health impacts, particularly in cold regions such as temperate and polar regions or areas of higher elevation. In Europe, changes in health impacts caused by alien species are mainly related to arthropod vectors and plants with allergenic pollen. As numbers of alien species will probably increase, preventive management needs to be strengthened. Further, a better understanding of drivers and management options of alien diseases and vectors, as well as joint efforts in education and outreach to the public and decision-makers, is required. There is a need for action and research,



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